No certainty of outcome for the RIBA drawings collection
The V&A's recent unveiling of its architecture gallery and the decision of RIBA Council to continue plans for the drawings collection to find a permanent home there imply certainty of outcome.
But, as in life, freedom of action and certainty of outcome are the province of cats and the very rich. The apparent certainty of the future location of the collection is in reality dependent first on a successful Heritage Lottery Fund application (the track record on this is not encouraging) and second, on the RIBA and the V&A being able to raise several million pounds to complement any grant.
Supposing one of these elements fails to materialise.
Are there other options?
If the works were curated by the Royal Academy it would be possible for it to show a continuous and varied exhibition at all times as well as, I believe, continue to add to the collection more easily - I am sure that other architects would be more likely to contribute work if they could see that its keepers were using it and displaying it in an intelligent manner.
These days, museums have no money to acquire anything. The V&A, for example, would like to buy one of my own works (pictured) but, sadly, it cannot find the money.
The RIBA collection, on the other hand, has never asked. If someone did, I would give one - or even two - because I would feel honoured to be part of a continuum in a wonderful collection.
The drawings in the hands of the RA would be more visible and more special than if they were buried in the vastness of the V&A. The RA is an organisation of practising artists and architects who would have the chance to actively use the archive as a part of their work.
Of course, the name 'drawings collection' today is dubious, as fewer architects are actually drawing. They more actively explore other media, notably the computer. No doubt the amblings into electronica will further develop into films. I welcome the development because the 'architectural drawing' (however elegant) has proved highly unsuccessful in its ability to communicate to the layperson.
The new media is slowly becoming a much more successful vehicle in promoting both dialogue with the client and the public at large. All this development is not being added to the existing collection and for this reason, the new home and more importantly the curatorship of the collection needs to be determined now.
In its new accommodation, the RA undoubtedly has the flexibility not only to provide exhibition space, but also a cinema that would allow programmes of new work to be screened. Indeed, the collection could well become a centre for architectural and urban consultation.
But, of course, for the collection to go to the RA would also require a successful grant application and successful fundraising. As I said, it is easier being a cat.
WA, from my desk at Parkgate Studio